Dozens of Saco residents attend a public hearing on the Lincoln Village development on Oct. 5. Eloise Goldsmith photo

SACO — The controversial Lincoln Village development — a proposed 332-unit housing complex on a 56 acre property— failed to receive final approval from the Saco Planning Board during an Oct. 24 meeting.

The denial of final approval makes it unlikely that the development will go up, though the owner has the opportunity to appeal the decision.

Loni Graiver, the owner of the land and the development applicant, did not respond to a request for comment for this story, which included a question about his plans to appeal. Drew Gagnon, a project manager for the firm contracted to prepare and submit the development’s application said he could not say for certain what Graiver would seek to do next. “There are a bunch of options” — for example, “someone else could buy the property,” he said. Gagnon directed further questions to Graiver. The site plan for the project was first presented to the Saco Planning Board in August 2022. 

The vote caps a saga that included charged public hearings and allegations of misconduct levied against the Planning Board. Save Saco Neighborhoods, the community group that spearheaded opposition to the Lincoln Village development, celebrated the decision in Facebook post, writing “we could never have done this without each other – to laugh, cry, and vent (to each other) in person, on social media, via email, or through text or calls – this effort was truly monumental and each and every word that was spoken to our City Officials was impactful.”

Save Saco Neighborhoods is a loosely affiliated community group that has a handful of core members who were active in the fight to oppose the Lincoln Village development.

Earlier this year, the Lincoln Village development appeared on track for approval. The Planning Board granted preliminary approval to the project in June, pending that the development satisfied some tacked on requirements.


Both preliminary and final approval are secured if members of the Planning Board vote the project through on twenty criteria. The criteria scrutinize the development’s potential impact on everything from groundwater to the applicant’s financial capacity to construct the project. If the development fails on even one criteria, approval is not granted.

Enough Planning Board members switched their votes from preliminary approval to final approval that the project failed on five criteria: impact on local traffic, impact on the city’s waste sewage disposal, ability to preserve the city’s aesthetic, cultural and natural values, conforming with local ordinances and Saco’s comprehensive plan, and impact on traffic in the wider area.

The city’s comprehensive plan is a set of guidelines intended to shape city policy.

“(I’m) really very relieved, and so pleased that it failed on five counts … I think it was a strong denial, that makes it feel much more concrete,” said Inga Browne, one of the core members of Save Saco Neighborhoods.

The group sees the vote as a direct reaction to community mobilization, which has been in full swing for months. In April, Save Saco Neighborhoods sent a letter to the Saco city planner and the chair of the Planning Board voicing a number of objections to the development. The letter argued that the project was not consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan when it comes to affordable housing, traffic, and preserving wetlands. The group also took issue with the project’s potential impact on the areas “scenic and natural beauty.” The idea that the project was simply too big — putting a “small city” within an existing city — was also a consistent theme of opposition throughout the past few months.

This small city of a project will replace trees with buildings, parking lots, and a maze of high-glare LED lights where large pines, undergrowth and darkness now prevail,” Save Saco Neighborhoods wrote in April.


The group also objected to the development on procedural grounds. Over the summer, members of Save Saco Neighborhoods spearheaded a grievance petition that was signed by 172 community members that alleged the Planning Board flouted the city’s procedural rules and ethical codes when deliberating on the project. For example, the group argues that the board failed to follow proper procedure in granting the project preliminary approval, casting doubt on the validity of the preliminary vote. The petition garnered enough support to trigger a grievance petition hearing which was held in September.

Concerns about traffic was another key sticking point, particularly for Chelsea Hill, a vocal member of Save Saco Neighborhoods. At the grievance petition hearing she became emotional describing her efforts to get local officials and police to take traffic safety in the area seriously.

Two Planning Board members, Matthew DiCianni and Rob Biggs switched their vote on the local traffic criteria between preliminary approval and final approval. Planning Board Member Jeffrey Grossman voted that the project had not met traffic requirements in both instances.

Hill pointed to Grossman as an ally on the Planning Board “throughout the entire process” and gave a shoutout to Biggs, who she commended for coming around to traffic concerns articulated by the public.

Save Saco Neighborhoods will stay involved in community affairs, according to Hill. “I think that we have found there is a vaccuum of discourse in Saco around advocating for the best interests of residents,” she said. 

A longer version of this story will appear online.



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